Why we're here:
This blog is to highlight the unjust persecution of legitimate non-TV users at the hands of TV Licensing. These people do not require a licence and are entitled to live without the unnecessary stress and inconvenience caused by TV Licensing's correspondence and employees.

If you use equipment to receive live broadcast television programmes then the law requires you to have a licence and we encourage you to buy one.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Reader Letter: TV Licensing Summons Language Difficulties


In today's post we respond to an email received from one of our readers.

Mohammed's partner, who has a very limited understanding of the English language, has just received a summons to court for the offence of using a TV receiver without a valid TV licence.

Our reader writes:

Dear TV Licensing Blog,

Firstly I would like to say how brilliant your site is, full of information and advice.

My home was visited by a TV licence officer and my partner answered the door.

My partner is illiterate and English is not her first language, in fact she has trouble understanding the very basic words. She was asked several question but due to difficulty in understanding, she replied back to the officer that he should return when I got home. She then closed the door. She never signed the form or let the officer into house.

She has just received a court summons for using a TV without a license, with a brief statement of the visiting officer and a copy of the partially completed TVL178 form. The TVL178 form is half filled in with the responses the officer claims my partner made. These are untrue, as she has no idea how these things work or are connected.

Now the only TV in our house is used for Sony PlayStation by my son. He had a license in the past but decided to discontinue renewing once realising he does not require one due to using only PlayStation or catchup TV.

I do not watch TV and my partner is the same. We do not subscribe to any cable or Sky packages. There is a TV aerial on the roof, but no cable running down. There is also an old Sky dish on the roof, with the cable still running into the house. We commit very long hours to our business and do not have much time to watch TV.

My partner and I are both extremely angry, as we do not expect TV Licensing officers to falsify details in the hope of securing a conviction.

Will it be better to respond to the summons by pleading not guilty? Or should we contact TV Licensing for them to review the summons?

Do these interviews need to comply with PACE? Will this TVL178 form be admissible in court, as my partner could not understand anything?

Thank you.

Mohammed

TV Licensing Blog replies:

Dear Mohammed,

Thank you for taking the time to contact the TV Licensing Blog. I am sorry to hear about the predicament that your partner finds herself in.

It sounds to me as if you are in full compliance with the legislation, in that you do not use equipment to receive TV programmes at your unlicensed property.

If the TVL178 Record of Interview form is completed correctly, then it would be admissable as evidence in court. However, given the language barrier, inaccurate and incomplete nature of the form in your partner's case, we really don't see how TV Licensing can hope to use it as evidence.

Your partner should respond to the summons indicating a not guilty plea. The basis of her not guilty plea is that the information recorded by TV Licensing is inaccurate, incomplete and she did not understand the interview process because of her very limited English.

I would then recommend contacting TV Licensing's Prosecution Team by telephone and explaining to them that your partner does not speak, read or write in English and had no understanding of the questions posed to her by the TV Licensing goon that visited. Her lack of understanding is demonstrated by the incomplete and inaccurate information recorded on the TVL178 form. Make sure TV Licensing is very aware that your partner is prepared to explain the situation to the Magistrates' with the benefit of an interpreter.

In your situation you (and your partner) are not guilty of any crime and I would not, for one moment, be considering any sort of compromise or deal with TV Licensing. TV Licensing is firmly in the wrong and it needs to remedy the situation.

If you've haven't already done so, please download and read our free ebook, TV Licensing Laid Bare.

I'd also be very grateful if you kept me up to date with developments in your partner's case.

Best of luck.

Peter

If you have any questions you would like answered on the TV Licensing Blog, please email us with the words "Reader Letter" in the subject line. Our email address is in the sidebar. As mentioned on the About page, we can't guarantee to respond to every email but will try our best.

Edit: We have tidied up the language in Mohammed's email a little bit.

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Friday, 19 August 2016

The BBC Justifies TV Licensing's Claimed 99 Percent Conviction Rate


The BBC has explained the methodology behind TV Licensing's claimed "99 percent conviction rate".

You might recall that we have some reservations about the 99 percent claim when we know, as a matter of fact, that only about half the people TV Licensing accuse of evading the TV licence fee are actually convicted by the court.

BBC Freedom of Information Advisor Rupinder Panesar has just provided the following figures and justification for TV Licensing's impressive conviction rate:

Figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (although he forgot to give the timeframe):
Cases heard: 193,678
Cases withdrawn: 26,126
Found not guilty: 32
Convictions: 167,520

Mr Panesar goes on to explain: "Of the cases heard, only 32 defendants were found not guilty and therefore the 99% conviction rate is derived by comparing the number of cases heard minus the number of cases withdrawn and comparing this to the number of convictions."

We see.

Here's an equally valid interpretation of the data: 193,678 people turned up to court thinking they were about to stand toe-to-toe with TV Licensing, but only 167,552 of them actually did. TV Licensing said to the other 26,126 <irony>"we're really sorry for inflicting months of stress on you and dragging you miles to court today, but we've decided we're not going to prosecute after all".</irony> Of the 167,552 that actually ended up in the dock, all but 32 of those were convicted of TV licence evasion.

Alternatively, 99% of the 87% of cases TV Licensing followed-through at court resulted in a conviction.

We think that's a more genuine representation of TV Licensing's statistics - not that genuinity is of much concern to TV Licensing.

The 26,126 withdrawn cases are of great interest to us. As Mr Panesar suggests, a significant proportion of those are what TV Licensing would consider first time "evaders". As we've previously mentioned, TV Licensing has a policy whereby it will normally give an alleged first time evader a chance to avoid prosecution if they buy a TV licence and keep up with the payments. However, in our opinion a significant proportion of the withdrawn cases are speculative prosecutions that TV Licensing has decided to quietly kill before exposing to judicial scrutiny.

Speculative prosecution is described on our Glossary page thus: "The fairly regular situation where the TV Licensing Needlecraft Division (Prosecution Team) has a person summoned to court on the basis of often inadequate (occasionally non-existent) evidence, on the assumption that most of them won't respond or contest the charges."

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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Innocent Woman Cleared After Wrongful Conviction for TV Licence Evasion


A woman only learnt that she'd been convicted of TV licence evasion when someone searched for her name on the internet.

St Ann's resident Monica Monni, 39, was shocked to learn that she had been prosecuted by TV Licensing on the falsehood that her previous address didn't have a valid TV licence, when in fact it had always been covered by a TV licence in her partner's name.

After discovering she'd been wrongly named and shamed, Monica brought the matter to TV Licensing's attention. Monica's wrongful conviction was duly annulled by Nottingham Magistrates' Court but, quite rightly, she is furious to have been convicted in the first place.

Speaking to The Nottingham Post, Monica said: "This was a terrible mix-up.

"The TV licence was being paid out of my partner's account. I had no idea that I was being prosecuted.

"We had moved by the time the letter from TV Licensing came through. I only found out later I had been 'found guilty' in my absence.

"I appealed it through TV licensing and was completely exonerated. It's been a nightmare."

The mother-of-one had originally been fined £200 and ordered to pay the £15 victim surcharge and £60 prosecution costs when the non-existent offence was dealt with back in January 2013.

Cases like this make us very angry, as they serve to demonstrate the fundamental flaws in TV Licensing's prosecution process. One would assume that TV Licensing would carefully check the TV licence-status of a property before attempting to prosecute the occupier for evasion, but Monica's case proves otherwise. Yet again, TV Licensing's slovenly attention to detail has seen a totally innocent individual wrongly criminalised and put through the wringer.

Capita Business Services Ltd. is the TV Licensing contractor responsible for bringing prosecutions on behalf of the BBC.

In our opinion Monica's case is far from an isolated incident. Every week hundreds of innocent people are wheeled before the courts by TV Licensing, often on the most tenuous of evidence.

Capita makes a good living from prosecuting alleged TV licence evaders, with recently released documents showing the company was awarded almost £120m in prosecutions costs in the 12 months to 31st March 2015.The BBC has previously confirmed that all prosecution costs awarded by the court are retained by Capita.

As is customary for the TV Licensing Blog, a quick reminder of the relevant legislation:
  • A TV licence is required for any property where equipment is installed (e.g. plugged in, ready for use) or used to receive TV programmes at the same time as they are broadcast to other members of the public.
  • From 1st September 2016, a TV licence will also be required by anyone intending to watch or download on-demand BBC iPlayer programmes.
  • The TV licence of a person's home address will cover any occupant of that property to view TV programmes on uninstalled devices (e.g. unplugged laptops, tablets or mobile phones) elsewhere.
  • A TV licence is NOT needed merely to own a TV set, PC, laptop, tablet, mobile phone or whatever. It is the act of receiving TV programmes that is licensable, not possessing equipment capable of doing so. 
Furthermore, we'd add that anyone who doesn't legally require a TV licence has no business whatsoever with TV Licensing. We'd encourage these legally-licence-free people to ignore TV Licensing completely.

TV Licensing cannot be trusted. Keep the door firmly closed and keep the scum from TV Licensing out.

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